Essays and Musings, Personal Style

Making It After All

MTM4In my late twenties, newly diagnosed with cancer, I lived in Brooklyn, and under the care of a kind and gifted oncologist did treatment at NYU Medical Center. That year of treatment happened to coincide with the terrorist attacks of 9/11; in fact, my very first chemotherapy round of six monthly doses, occurred two weeks before the unforgettable morning of September 11th. The timing meant that my hair had begun to fall out in chunks on that day. I found it on the pillow when I opened my eyes and later, on the shower floor. If you’ve ever experienced this kind of catastrophic hair loss, you’ll know how unnerving it is. At the age of twenty-nine, I wasn’t prepared for going bald, let alone for having cancer. I didn’t own any clippers and was at a loss as to removing the remaining scattered patches of hair; in the chaos and fear immediately following the attacks, the bridges and subways were closed, making it impossible to get to my hairdresser in Manhattan.

So I called a friend who lived in Park Slope, and asked him if he could shave my head. Accompanied by my husband and by my friend’s partner, we all four went up to the  rooftop that looked out towards Manhattan. In the empty horizon you could see two rising columns of black smoke where a day earlier the World Trade Center Towers had stood. I still have the before and after photos. From time to time I look at my husband posed with his arms encircling my waist, the sky falling behind us as a backdrop, bluer that I remember it being that day. In one photograph I have hair and in the other I don’t.

You might think that I got used to the idea of having cancer and of being bald, but I struggled against the image of outsider, the image of someone to be feared because of her condition. And so I immersed myself in the bright and deceptive world of TV and cinema. Submerged in this fantasy realm, I was free to identify with iconic women who had the wherewithal to make it through. One woman stood out in particular: Mary Richards. Mary was a great favorite from numerous childhood years of watching TV. Mary Tyler Moore’s iconic character was my heroine: a stylish woman who used humor along with courage to move gracefully through the day-to-day. She fearlessly bucked the trend of wife and homemaker, seeking independence instead. Today, with so much uneasiness about the future, alongside the hopefulness of the recent Women’s March on Washington, Mary Richards’ ability to make it after all remains profoundly relevant.

I’ve written before about Mary’s influence, and on this day of Mary Tyler Moore’s passing, I am sharing here  as a tribute, the article published in Elle magazine.

Mary Tyler Moore, 1970s

Mary Tyler Moore, 1970s

Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards

As Mary Richards

 

 

 

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The Four Seasons of Vintage

Fall

Vintage Jaeger Polka Dot blouse with Chanel turn lock necklace

Vintage Jaeger polka dot blouse with 90s Chanel turn lock necklace

Vintage Ungaro Blazer

Vintage Ungaro blazer

Ten years ago my husband came home from work one day and asked me how I felt about California. I wasn’t surprised. He’d been looking for a new job in academia, a word defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the scholastic life.” The new job he wanted was at UCLA in the Art History Department. But he didn’t necessarily want to move out of New York. At the time, he couldn’t imagine living in any other city, and friends warned about the West Coast with its dizzying temperate climate. I couldn’t wait to move. I wanted to experience swimming outdoors in the sunshine year round, and the lack of any need for pantyhose. “But how can you be sure you want to move?” my husband cautioned. “You’ve never visited California and are a product of the East Coast. You don’t even know how to drive.”

It’s true: after college I moved to New York City, living there for years with my husband. When we first arrived together in the early nineties we lived in SoHo. We had a railroad apartment on the fifth floor of a five-floor walk up. In the summer the one bedroom apartment baked under the black-tarred roof from where we had a view of the water towers.  You could see the corner of 6th Avenue from the living room.

I won’t lie. I didn’t drive, never really needed to. All the same, I was happy to move. Moving felt right: the right time of my life to relocate to a new and exciting city, the right time to change all my familiar habits and routines, the right time to become a brighter version of myself. One of the biggest challenges was a sartorial one. It required redefining how I saw the seasons – getting used to the idea of fall as a hot and dry season rather than as a cool and breezy one, experiencing winter and spring with lots of sunlight, and early summer as cool and cloudy.

Ten years after moving to Los Angeles, I have my own car, but what’s more, I’ve mastered the skill of dressing for the seasons.  It’s officially fall so I’m wearing a light cotton fabric for day and adding a heavier cotton layer for night. I couldn’t be more pleased with the move to California.

A Fall outfit ready to go with Hermes Kelly long wallet as clutch. Just add bottoms of your choice....

A fall outfit ready to go with Hermès Kelly long wallet as clutch. Just add bottoms of your choice….

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